When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they attempted to implement a brutal and coercive system that would allow Adolf Hitler, who became chancellor on January 30, 1933, to execute his own racist, bellicose agenda. Part of implementing this system was creating a Volksgemeinschaft, a racial or people’s community. Hitler attempted to institute the Volksgemeinschaft so that he would have less resistance as an absolute ruler, and he enforced it mainly through the actual and perceived presence of the Geheime Staatspolizei, or the Gestapo. The implementation of the Volksgemeinschaft was largely effective, though there were some unexpected and unwanted consequences as a result of Nazi methods.
The people’s community of Nazi Germany was an attempt to unify the German people, or what was seen as the German people, and excluding, or to even greater measures expunging, non-Germans. In defining what the Volksgemeinschaft included, Hitler and the Nazis largely used who was not a part of the community in order to characterize who and what was included in the community. Through this community, the Nazis sought to overcome the divisions of society. According to the Nazis, the Volksgemeinschaft was meant to unify Germans according to race or blood.  Strangely enough, many of the categories that did not fit Hitler’s definition of the Volk were not related to race or blood at all, but ideology and lifestyle.
The largest group that was alienated and purged from the Volksgemeinschaft was the Jewish population. The racist ideology of the Nazis raged against the Jews as a separate race instead of a religious ideology. The Volksgemeinschaft also excluded “A-socials” such as homosexuals, religious dissenters, the work-shy, and alcoholics, none of which are a group defined by race or blood. Racial outsiders and non-Germans were also kept out. The mentally handicapped and political dissenters, such as communists or members of the Social Democratic Party, were also alienated. Once again, political dissenters and the mentally handicapped were not a group that had parameters set by race or blood, but the Nazis defined them as unwanted either way. Communists, much like Jews and other religious dissenters, were separated out from the community because of their ideology.
In order to ensure that his racial community formed, Hitler enforced it a number of different ways. The most forthright and forceful way of enforcing his views of a racial community was through the Gestapo. The Sturmabteilung, a paramilitary organization that was a precursor to the SS and the Gestapo, were especially important to Hitler during the consolidation of his power.  They were important because their physical presence because they terrorized the political opponents of the Nazi party, including the communists, and helped to protect Nazi party rallies from political opponents.  More significantly, the Sturmabteilung was able to conduct their terrorizing methods on opponents while Hitler still remained dissociated from the violence.
The violence that was being carried out by the brutal police units of the Nazi state was seen somewhat as legitimized because it was the police that was doing the violence, and they were largely perpetrating violence against perceived opponents to the state or radicals, such as the communists. The spontaneity and localization of the attacks carried out the police helped to give deniability to Hitler and the Nazis,  so that even if there were some Germans who had reservations about the attacks, they would not have their concerns directed toward Hitler himself but the unruly, rogue police units. The use of these police units and the deniability that it gave to Hitler is especially important, because Hitler was still consolidating power while this violence was going on. His deniability kept his public image intact, possibly even strengthened, while what needed to be done was getting done in the most effective, brutal fashion he required.
After Hitler and the Nazis were firmly in place, the Gestapo was used as a means to enforce Hitler’s racial community.  The Gestapo rounded up political dissenters and opponents of the Volksgemeinschaft, a task that, by themselves, would have been impossible to do. Enforcement of the Volksgemeinschaft, after a while, came from the people themselves, and if the Gestapo began the enforcement after consolidation, the German people themselves helped to maintain that enforcement. This serves as an interesting study, because the German people were able to become active, perhaps unwittingly, in the Volksgemeinschaft by turning in enemies of the state.
Whether it was the violent tactics of the Gestapo or the non-violent admissions of the population, the community was slowly being purged. The people moved the vicious circle around, because after long rumors and insecurity forced many people’s hands in turning in others, which generated still more insecurity.  The Gestapo, as intended, eventually became a form of “thought police,”  similar to what would be seen in the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin. The Gestapo, much like the NKVD, or the USSR equivalent, would have been all but useless to the Nazis without active citizen participation, and this dependence on these “good citizens”  is linked to the effectiveness of the racial community on those citizens.  Because of the active participation, the Volksgemeinschaft, reliant on the people, was proved at least somewhat effective.
Another way that the Nazis sought to enforce this racial community was through community organizations, such as the Hitler Youth. Youths in the Nazi regime had a unique experience, as “they were in the front line for incorporation”  into the Volksgemeinschaft. The Hitler Youth was initially very attractive to youths in the Third Reich, because it provided leisure and opportunities for these young men. It also provided the boys with something that they, like most youths, wanted, a place that was in a realm separated from their parents and school.  At first, Hitler Youth was a great place for German adolescence, and it provided them with a “‘counter-authoritarian’ sanctuary,”  a place where they could feel rebellious.
Hitler also used political means to enforce his view of a racial community. In April, 1933, the Civil Service Law was passed, allowing Hitler to forcibly retire any non-Aryans or Nazi opponents from a civil service position.  It also prevented Jews and political opponents, specifically communists, from becoming judges or teachers.  The Nazis also implemented what was known as Gleichschaltung, or trying to coordinate all of German society. The Gleichschaltung had many parts to it and was a far reaching movement, and was effective in trying to implement Nazi ideology of a racial community.
The Reichstag Fire allowed Hitler to request from the president of Germany the Emergency Powers Act on February 28, 1933, and the Enabling Act in March, which was a law giving Hitler dictatorial power for four years.  This fundamentally changed the Weimar constitution and disallowed communists from participating in the Reichstag, silencing his opponents politically and effectively alienating them from both political as well as social community. By the summer of 1933, political parties were banned and the state power as a whole was undermined by the Nazis. 
The Nazi attempt at creating a racially common community was largely effective. Naturally, it would be impossibly for this implementation to be one-hundred percent effective, but for what was expected it was successful. There were, however, large portions of the implementation methodology that proved to be ineffective. Unexpected consequences of the enforcement caused problems, if “backlash” is too strong a word.
The Gestapo was the primary method of enforcement for the Nazis, as it was the physical presence on the streets. The Gestapo was somewhat effective in enforcing this racial community, as they were able to cause an atmosphere of fear in Germany that forced citizens to turn on one another and to turn in enemies of the state. Unintended consequences of this crackdown, however, resulted in many Germans turning in others who were not outright enemies of the state, but instead using these crackdowns for their own personal gains, much like what is speculated in the Salem Witch Trials in America. The German “witch hunt” had become personal.
If one German wanted another “out of the way,”  they would report suspicious behavior, even if it was not suspicious. This became a large problem for the Gestapo and the Nazi regime. Encouraging citizen participation had gotten out of control, and it went as far as having estranged spouse report the behavior of another in order to obtain a divorce.  The Gestapo had ignited denunciations for selfish, personal gains, and, if there was a part of the enforcement of the Volksgemeinschaft that was a completely ineffective disaster, it was this: The people’s community of the Nazis was meant to overcome divisions, and these rampant denunciations did the opposite. Masters of deception and propaganda, the Nazis, ironically, had no answer for the deception that took place that was dividing communities that Hitler intended to bring together.
The Hitler Youth also had its unintended results. Thought it originally started as a place where German adolescence could be away from their parents, and it was also seen as separate from authority. After a while, problems began to develop in the Hitler Youth. It began leading more steadily to the army, and the drills and regimentation of the organization made the youths feel like they were losing their freedom. As the leadership grew older and more bureaucratic, the Hitler Youth was becoming the authoritarian organization the youths originally wanted to avoid. This loss of freedom caused many youths to look for alternatives and a more open culture, including listening to American swing and Jazz music and going to dance halls. 
After Hitler’s election, the German citizen had little ability to actively participate in politics and the government. There were harsh restrictions on political activity, and the results of any “token elections” were already “foregone conclusions.”  Because of this limitation, it is difficult to fully assess the effectiveness of the ideology of Volksgemeinschaft on the German people themselves. Though they were not able to actively participate in politics unless they were a part of the Nazi party, they found other informal ways to participate in the racial community, such as reporting to the Gestapo. The enforcement of the Volksgemeinschaft could be seen as effective because of this restriction on citizen rights and voting, because it then allowed Hitler to implement his policies for the racial community with less resistance.
To Hitler and the Nazis, the Volksgemeinschaft was a people’s or racial community, and they defined it by the attempt to unify Germans by race and blood, to create a common Nazi world view, to overcome divisions in society, and to purge those who were not in the community. In order to enforce this Volksgemeinschaft, Hitler relied on the police, the storm troopers and the Gestapo at first to get rid of enemies of the state, but after a while active participation by “good citizens” helped maintain a certain level of enforcement. Hitler also used politics and organizations, such as the Gleichschaltung and the Hitler Youth, to enforce his ideology. Many of the ways the Nazis enforced the Volksgemeinschaft was effective, because citizens were reporting suspicious behavior and enemies of the state were being purged from civil service positions. The implementation of Volksgemeinschaft was largely effective, but also had unintended consequences and backlash that proved it also party ineffective, whether it was suspicion reports getting out of control or youths rebelling against the Hitler Youth in order to seek a more open culture.
 Class notes, 18 October 2010
 Dietrich Orlow, A History of Modern Germany (New York: Prentice Hall, 2009), 154.
 Class notes, 13 October 2010
 Orlow, 164.
 Monsterous Uneasiness , 176. Handout.
 Ibid, 177.
 Richard Bessel, Life in the Third Reich (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 25.
 Class notes, 18 October 2010.
 Bessel, 25.
 Orlow, 166.
 Class notes, 25 October 2010.
 Class notes, 10 October 2010.
 Monstrous Uneasiness , 177.
 Ibid, 178.
 Bessel, 37.
 Monstrous Uneasiness , 175,